Performance by Melquisedeque Miranda
Text by Raphael Andrade
Translation by Danielle Cascaes
“What goes through me?” – asks Melquisedeque about the performance he developed, called “Carne(ficina)” [Carnage] . This question, however, is a gear that makes the performer(s) gain breath and creative power in the process of systematizing a Performance Art. This systematization starts, mainly, from the artist’s subjectivity: remembering her/his fears, anxieties, scars, and, above all, exploring which tools will be used to change what is socially taken as axiomatic. In this way, the performative actions performed in the Performance subject at the Theater Graduation Course at UFPA, taught by Prof. Dr. Karine Jansen, potently presents the use of the body in the embodiment of a creative act and, consequently, in understanding the corporeal action as “a place for public debate” (ORLAN, 1998, p. 95). The public debate, as Orlan rightly states, is crossed by the embodiment of ideas and the presence of the body-performer gains an unprecedented potency when performing the performative action, mainly, in the city.
This force is capable of creating a semiotic dispute, which disorients the possible field of the street, provokes non-hegemonic narratives, alters the urban landscape and the way one should be in that place. An example of this premise is the corporeal action of Melquisedeque, who brings to the performative act a non-ordinary body, with a shapeless body partiture and his black facial features dusted by the white achromatic color, which refers to the ideology of the whitening of black people, thus revealing an ephemeral corporeal-spatial composition that leaves symbolic marks in space-time and in the passers-by who see the performatic act.
In the aforementioned performance, the attention is directed to the performer’s own body, which can be analyzed from an artivist perspective, because it acts in correlation with the experiences and the afflictions of the black body. Therefore, Melquisedeque creates objects, ways of cracking the white oppressive hegemony (and eugenics), mainly through gestural compositions that represent these oppressions, as the artist himself narrates:
The performance is constituted with my body tied up, “squeezed” with red ribbons, which represent the oppressions that suffocate the black body, the breath with the intention of circumscribing me in these imposed barriers. This ribbon brings an image of cuts, as if my body were marked in order to dismember itself and, thus, be able to reduce me to the imposed spaces. Added to this, there is the green bowl that has the meaning of this influential make-up discourse, which sells this aesthetic and life standardization. Unfortunately, many of my people buy this fallacy to fit into this coercivity and reproduce this racism. And, finally, the white dust itself, which whitens, bothers, blinds. This dust is the erasure, the disfiguration of the individual, the forgetfulness of memory. (MIRANDA, 2022)
In this prism, the artist uses corporeal performance art to deconstruct stereotypes and archetypes that aim to modify the racist structure and, as a consequence, to put at risk the instances of power’s supremacy flow (it is important to remembering that racism is a system of power), especially by being in the streets, a place where the flows of power coordination are intensified.
In the city, the performer triggers the visual bombs of the body that is most persecuted, tortured and massacred in the Amazonian lands. Other bodies see them as a “blocks on the path”, as Carlos Drummond de Andrade used to say, or the meat that once (was? is?) seen as the cheapest and that, until today, has remnants of slavery, as the song by Seu Jorge, Ulises Capeletti and Marcelo Nascimento stated. In a country like Brazil, colonized in a violent way, the marks of slavery have not ceased, and we don’t even need scientific data to know this, we only need to look at the violent prejudice in our daily lives.
To crack this unequal structure, Melquisedeque reveals the signs present and the codes established in his body, by pointing his black skin as an operator of social transformations, intensifier of identity reaffirmation, and empowerer of minority groups. In other words, the performer inscribes the world in his own body and reestablishes his political will for a body that has always been violently restricted and disciplined by the optic of whitening, in which the standard, as we well know, is still Eurocentric.
By retrieving his subjective memories encoded in the performative act, the performer turns them into a coded dissident dynamite that tactically attempts to alert and modify other subjectivities and instigates the following analysis:
Performances are materializations, in the body, of the dissatisfactions and reflections about our surroundings, enough strong restlessness that they impel us to action. Performances are fueled by daily, quotidian actions; they are inseparable from ordinary, common life. Performances ignore the limits between art and life. (CASTANHEIRA, 2014, p. 146)
By establishing performance art as a reflexive action on a fine line between art and life, and by facing the performative action in a dissident way, even if in a temporary way, the performance author manages to disorganize the control of his body and shake the structures of the society in control.
It is noticeable, therefore, that performance art engenders modes of existence, besides configuring possible choices to flow the existence of bodies that are not docile – in Foucault’s way. And to perform dissident performance is to restore the will for political action.
This article is brought to a close with the words of the artist himself, who synthesizes, in a powerful and precise manner, the reason for performing the performative act “Carne(ficina)”: “Every time I do this performance, I think about how delicate the line between remembering and forgetting is. And I understand that this performance exists because the attempts to erase us is what brings us back to the surface.” (MIRANDA, 2022).
 TN: “Carne(ficina)” is a term that has no literal translation. The artist played with the words to create the title. The “correct” word would be “Carnificina”, that means slaughter, butchery or carnage. By changing the “I” for the “E”, Melquisedeque made a pun with the word “Carne”, which means “Meat”, because in this performatic work, he talks about the slaughter and erasure that happens daily with black people. Being black himself, he was talking about his own body, meat and flesh.
 In short, an artivist is an artist who makes his or her art a form of political activism.
CASTANHEIRA, Ludmila. Performance Arte: modos e existência. 1. Ed. Curitiba: Appris, 2018.
MIRANDA, Melquisedeque. Memorial da performance “Carne(ficina)”. No prelo.
ORLAN. Surtout pas sage comme une image…Tradução nossa. Quasimodo – Art à contre-corps. Montpellier, n. 5, printemps, 1998.